This is part two of a series of articles, detailing the last several years of my life. This journey will include my experience as a Marine Corps infantryman, my transition to civilian life, a first-time college student, a seeker-sensitive pastor, and a personal conviction to not stop at the Doctrines of Grace and to keep Reforming my faith. I hope this can be a form of encouragement for people going through a similar transition in their lives, and for those unsatisfied with the ambiguousness of the term Reformed.
Leaving the Marine Corps after 12 years of active duty service was not an easy task. In fact, much of the year 2011 was a daily struggle for me as I contemplated leaving the service to pursue where I felt God was leading me. I could have just stayed in the Corps, where I was protected, secure and experienced in my profession. However, leaving the military to prepare for something even greater than serving my country was starting to become a reality for my family and I.
For the first time in my career, leaving the Corps started to become a valid option, though it was not easy. Don’t get me wrong, what they say is true. The Marine Corps can be a tough life. Its demands are real, sacrifices for your country are often brutal, and the time spent away from your family is hard. But the Marine Corps also takes care of their serviceman.
During my wife’s first two pregnancies, I never worried about doctor visits, hospital bills, or any other medical expenses. I was paid on the 1st and 15th of every month, regardless of how much I worked. This was such a positive for my family and I. Since leaving the service altogether, I have also become very aware of how hard it is being a civilian. The security I had while in the Corps was no longer there, and the job I once took for granted was no longer a given. Having two young daughters at the time did not make my decision any easier. To be honest, I was truly scared to leave the comforts of the Corps, even with another deployment lurking on the horizon.
As a Marine Corps infantryman, deployments were part of the job. I had already served on multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, with more trips on the horizon. During my 12-year career, I was given the opportunity to serve at just about every level. This included teaching Marine Corps Recruits how to handle, shoot, and qualify on the rifle range with a M16 service rifle during Basic Training (Boot Camp). I was also an Infantry Combat Instructor at the School of Infantry, teaching entry-level Marines the basic skills needed to be sent out to their respective units for future combat operations. My last tour was spent at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, serving as a Platoon Sergeant for an Infantry Battalion. The opportunity to make an impact on the lives of young men was truly an honor. But still, something inside me was always yearning for something greater.
During the summer of 2011, my priorities started to shift. As I mentioned earlier, for the first time in my life, I was having these crazy ideas about leaving the service altogether. Eventually, I made the decision to apply to a private university in southern California, just to see what they would say. The process went pretty smoothly, and despite having been out of school for about 14 years, they accepted me as a transfer student for the spring of 2012. All I knew about the school was that it was a Christian institution, which for me, meant they were one of the good guys! At the time, every Christian University was the same to me. The only difference between them was a matter of location and taste. I would come to learn that this was not the case. So I sent my family home early, packed up our stuff in Hawaii, and headed back to Southern California to be a college student. It was a very exciting time for us, but also a very scary transition.
After being in the military for much of my adult life, I had no idea what it would be like to sit in a classroom again. But after several years training young men to serve their country at war, we decided it was time for me to prepare for where I felt God was calling me. I soon found myself in a completely new world. A world that would place me on the fast track to achieve my goals, but also bring to light some internal struggles I was hiding from the everyone.
To be continued…